Town continues to push for water testing results

Staff Writer

Town continues to push
for water testing results
Staff Writer

HOWELL — Township Manager Bruce Davis updated the mayor and Township Council recently with the latest developments in the ongoing Parkway Water Company saga.

Mayor Timothy J. Konopka and the members of the council were less than pleased to hear that their written request to Parkway Water executives asking the firm to supply its Howell customers with bottled water was "not going to be obliged," according to Davis.

Parkway Water, based in Marlboro, serves more than 1,800 homes and businesses in the Ramtown section of the township. The request made to the company for bottled water was due to the known contamination of several Parkway Water wells that serve Ramtown.

The source of the water’s con­tamination was Radium 226 and Radium 228, naturally occurring elements in the soil that can be­come activated by the introduction of fertilizers and lime into the soil, as well as by the movement of the soil.

Included in Parkway Water’s customer base are three schools — the Ramtown Elementary School, the Greenville Elementary School and Howell Middle School South.

Bottled water had been provided at the three schools by the Howell Board of Education following the company’s announcement a year ago of the contamination. The bottled water was discontinued after the board installed a treatment system at each school to remediate the contamination.

Davis said municipal officials were still trying to obtain results from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from water testing the state per­formed in January.

Barker Hamill, the DEP’s Chief of the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, had promised the state’s test results would be available to the public by the end of March.

To date, according to Davis, the state has not released the informa­tion and also was refusing to pro­vide data to a private testing agency Howell has hired to do in­dependent studies of Parkway Water. Davis said he told DEP rep­resentatives that their refusal to be forthcoming with the information was "only going to give the impres­sion there’s something to hide and feeds the anxiety people are feel­ing."

Davis said he asked state Sen. Robert Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean) to intercede on Howell’s behalf due to the "foot dragging" on the part of the DEP. He said Singer’s efforts will ensure that Brinkerhoff Environmental Data, the township’s independent tester, is provided with the information requested from the state.

Davis said he had met in early May with Parkway Water’s own­ers, Gary and David Ern, and rep­resentatives of the Brick Township Municipal Utility Authority (BTMUA). The council’s written re­quest to Parkway Water for the bottled water followed that meet­ing.

The BTMUA of neighboring Brick Township is in negotiations with Parkway Water to purchase the private water company and begin serving the firm’s Howell customers.

Davis said he told the BTMUA representatives that if they pur­chase Parkway Water, a public meeting with the customers they would now be serving in Howell would be needed to acquaint the Howell residents with the neigh­boring utility company. He said the BTMUA representatives indi­cated that if the sale goes through they will accommodate that re­quest.

Also, said Davis, despite David Ern’s assertion to him that there is no standard set for pipe scaling or testing and therefore no require­ment for it, Brinkerhoff Environmental Data was also going to be conducting a pipe scaling test from the schools as well as a ran­dom sampling of private homes.

Scaling is a condition in which contaminants remain in water pipes, adhered to the walls of the pipes due to a calcification process that leads to their buildup.

Davis said he told Ern, "There are those who think it is a problem. That genie’s out of the bottle."

The cancer risk for Parkway Water’s customers has been assessed by the DEP as being one in 10,000 if an individual were to drink two liters of the contaminated water every day for 70 years.

A company notice issued to Parkway Water’s customers in June 2003 advised that individuals on chemotherapy, undergoing transplant surgery, or infants, might be at a higher rate of risk by drinking the water.

Davis said he was informed in May that Parkway Water has now taken a fourth well off-line due to contamination. He said the com­pany is going to continue to pur­chase surface water from the New Jersey-American Water Company, but is not going to be implementing a remediation program due to the sale of the company which he said they informed him they "intend to consummate."

Davis said the BTMUA represen­tatives told him that if the utility buys Parkway Water no water will be taken from any of the firm’s wells. The source of the drinking water for customers in Ramtown would be the new reservoir in Brick, he said.

Brick Township Council President Steve Acropolis recently told the Tri-Town News he has reservations about Brick taking over Parkway Water’s infrastruc­ture and opening itself to future li­ability.

Radium, the contaminant found in the water, affects a person be­cause the body does not flush the element, but instead allows the ra­dium to absorb into the bones. As it sits in the bones, it is known to pose a particular risk to developing bones.

A water softening system is rec­ognized as one method of eliminat­ing radium from water systems and mitigating scaled pipes when the system is installed at the point of entry of the water into the home.

In recent weeks a new voice was added to the list of residents who have addressed the council over the past year with their concerns about Parkway Water.

Lois Flynn of Joshua Cour, told the governing body that her 13-year-old daughter has had three recent surgeries due to bone tumors. Flynn said her daughter was healthy when the family moved to Howell in 2000.

"I am convinced the water had something to do with my daughter’s condition," Flynn said, adding that her family does not do anything with tap water now except bathe in it. "I would love to have a water treatment system, but I can’t afford it."

Flynn told Davis she would be glad to volunteer her home to be one of those the township would have privately tested.

Summing up, Davis told the mayor and council members that Singer was so incensed by what he had been told about the matter and its developments to date that the senator indicated he would set up a meeting among Howell officials and DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell.

Davis said also he contacted Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) to inform him of the "excruciating process we’ve been put through" trying to get testing results at the state level.